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The Surprising Reasons Why You Need to Cold Water Plunge – daily.

cold water plunge

Have you ever wondered if voluntarily subjecting yourself to a daily cold water plunge could be good for you?

Proponents of cold water therapy say it offers a host of potential health and wellness benefits. But is exposing your body to frigid temperatures truly helpful or simply torturous?

Let’s dive in to understand the facts behind this ancient practice making a modern resurgence.

Common Questions About Cold Water Therapy

If you’re new to the concept of cold water therapy, you likely have some valid concerns. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

  • Is it safe? When approached gradually, cold water therapy is generally safe for most healthy adults. However, people with certain medical conditions like heart disease should consult a doctor first.
  • Will it shock my body? Entering cold water triggers an involuntary “cold shock” response – gasping, increased heart rate and blood pressure. But these effects are temporary. With practice, your body can adapt and the good news is, that cold shock produces cold shock proteins.
  • How cold does the water need to be? For benefits, experts recommend under 12.5° / 55°F but above freezing. Start with cooler shower water and work toward ice baths.
  • When’s the best time to do it? Some say first thing in the morning energises you. Others prefer post-workout when muscles are warm. Find what works for your schedule.
  • How long should I stay in? Start with 30-90 seconds and work up to 2-5 minutes over time. Longer exposure may indicate you could lower the water temperature.
  • Will I freeze to death? Shivering and feeling cold is normal, but get out if lips turn blue or skin appears pale. And don’t jump into icy waters alone.
  • What does it feel like? Beyond the initial cold shock, most describe an invigorating, tingling sensation. Endorphins kick in to make it tolerable and even enjoyable.

The Cool Benefits of Cold Water Plunge.

Once you move past the concept of intentionally freezing yourself, you may be wondering – what are the possible benefits? According to developing research and passionate proponents, here are some of the touted wellness perks:

Reduced Inflammation and Muscle Soreness

Inflammation is a natural bodily response, but chronic levels can lead to numerous issues. A cold water plunge constricts blood vessels, flushing built-up fluid and waste from tissues. This reduces swelling and post-workout muscle soreness. Some athletes use cold water immersion to recover faster.

Increased Metabolism

Your metabolism works hard to warm your body when you cold water plunge. Cold environments can burn additional calories and can give your metabolism an added boost. One study showed 50-80 calories burned from just 10 minutes in 15°C 60°F water. With consistency, the small uptick can add up.

Improved Sleep and Focus

A daily cold water plunge triggers the release of neurotransmitters like norepinephrine. This rush of alertness may explain the improved focus and the deep, restful sleep many cold therapy fans report after. Think of it like a hard reset for both mind and body.

Relief from Ailments

While more research is needed, advocates tout cold water benefits for a wide array of ailments including arthritis, fibromyalgia, migraines, anxiety, fatigue and depression. The anti-inflammatory effects likely contribute. But for chronic conditions, discuss adding cold therapy with your doctor.

Immune System Boost

Emerging research indicates that brief cold water plunge exposure activates your immune system, ramping up the production of white blood cells and antibodies. This enhanced response could translate to fewer sick days. Just don’t overdo it to the point of stressing your body.

Mood Enhancement

The term “runner’s high” refers to the release of feel-good endorphins with intense exercise. Cold water elicits a similar euphoric biochemical response. The mix of dopamine, endorphins and adrenaline can leave you feeling calm, focused and motivated.

Improved Circulation

Alternating a cold water plunge with a hot spa, or sauna encourages blood flow as vessels constrict and dilate. This pumping action can help improve circulation over time. There’s a reason cultures around the world incorporate hot-cold hydrotherapy into traditional bathing practices.

Fat Loss

Can chilling your body help you lose weight? Beyond the metabolism-boosting cold burn, cold water immersion seems to stimulate beneficial fat loss hormones. One study found increased noradrenaline levels translate to abdominal and thigh fat reduction over time.


There’s no miracle cure for purging environmental toxins from your body. However, proponents theorize that a daily cold water plunge has anti-inflammatory effects, improved circulation and lymphatic drainage supports the body’s natural detoxification capacity. However specific research is limited.

Skin and Hair Health

Beauty enthusiasts claim bracing skin and scalp with cold water can help reduce acne, boost radiance and add shine to hair by closing cuticle scales. Always follow cold rinses with moisturizing products to avoid dryness.

Gradual Exposure is Key

While the list of perceived benefits may have you ready to take an ice bath, it’s important to introduce cold water gradually.

Extreme cold exposure can be dangerous, causing hypothermia and cardiac arrest, if you have an underlying condition.

Here are some expert tips on getting started:

  • Talk to your doctor before attempting long or intense cold exposures.
  • Slowly turn down shower temperature over weeks to acclimate.
  • Try alternating hot and cold water to boost circulation.
  • In cold water, stay active rather than still to generate warmth.
  • Limit first cold water immersions to less than 5 minutes.
  • Introduce cold therapy when your body is warm, not chilled.
  • Take it easy post-immersion and don’t attempt again until recovered.
  • Never swim or soak alone in extremely cold water.
  • Listen to your body and stop if you feel prolonged pain, numbness or fatigue.

My Personal Cold Water Therapy Story

As someone plagued by chronic muscle soreness after football, I was intrigued by whispers of cold water benefits. I used to soak my calves in large buckets of cold water, or generally, I would make a call to my wife while I was in the car to fill the bath and load it with the ice cubes from the freezer – I’m 15 minutes away.

But frankly, I wasn’t keen to shock my system or waste time on another fruitless wellness trend. What finally inspired me to give it a shot?

My friend’s constant enthusiasm for his daily brisk cold showers after his football games. He wasn’t just doing his calves, it was his entire body and for minutes at a time. So, I started by slowly decreasing my regular shower temperature over two weeks.

After adjusting to a bracing yet bearable temperature, I was surprised at how invigorated I felt getting out. The initial shock soon turned into an energy boost to start my days.

Over a month in, my nagging post-football muscle soreness has decreased. While more significant benefits require longer-term consistency, I’m a portable ice bath convert.

I can’t promise it will drastically transform your health. But if nothing else, it delivers a jolt of alertness like nothing else!

Should You Take the Cold Water Plunge?

Cold water therapy certainly seems to be on trend, with advocates making some fairly lofty claims. But as is often the case, the incredible benefits are not unequivocally proven.

Most evidence remains anecdotal or in early research. If you have an interest in cold exposure, approach it as an experimental wellness practice, not a miracle cure. While generally safe for most, cold water immersion is not for everyone.

Listen to your body, take necessary precautions and consult a doctor if you have any concerns. Ultimately, you have little to lose from testing the invigorating powers of cold for yourself.

Just don’t expect to become a superhuman overnight.

As we await more definitive research, enjoy cold water therapy as a way to shake up your routine, mental reset and have fun braving the elements. What do you have to lose, other than a few degrees?

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  • Dale Folland

    Dale is a seasoned Nutritionist with over two decades of experience in the health and wellness industry. His expertise has been sought after by elite groups such as NZ SAS Soldiers and NZ Fire Service, where he has contributed to optimising their performance and well-being. Dale is also a renowned speaker and educator and his work has been recognised in publications like the Daily Mail and various US media outlets.

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